I’m a bit late in wishing every American a wonderful Independence Day. I love July 4th with its cookouts, parades, and fireworks to celebrate freedom. We were (and still are) patriotic. When I was younger, my Dad bought a small cannon. It was, I don’t know, maybe 2-3 feet long. He’d shoot it off on July 4th. It didn’t have cannon balls or anything because it wouldn’t be cool to knock a hole in a neighbor’s house! It was just packed with gun powder and made a loud boom. I loved it. I would have loved to have inherited it after my Dad died but, alas, I am a black sheep in the family.
When EJ and I were first married, we’d go to various towns to enjoy their fireworks displays. One time we were traveling home from someplace “up north” (I can’t remember where); we enjoyed the fireworks of multiple towns and cities as we drove by. It was awesome. When our son was older, we stayed home because he enjoyed setting off the smaller fireworks that we bought. We stayed home this year and enjoyed the quiet beauty of our Enchanted Forest. Because of high–and rising–inflation, we haven’t bought a lot of picnic or snack foods lately. They can really blow our budget. But because it was Independence Day, we splurged on traditional foods: hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, homemade coleslaw, and Moomer’s Ice Cream, which is made locally and is the best ice cream EVER. Normally I would have also made potato salad, but with our chickens not laying many and at least one eating them, I decided not to.
There are fantastic festivals with fireworks near us, but tens of thousands of tourists come up to the area, which is just too peopley for us. We could hear the loud booms of fireworks all around us and you’d think that with us living on the top of the hill, we’d be able to see some of them, but the surrounding trees and hills block all but the tops of the highest fireworks. I actually spent the evening trying to win first place in a Hebrew challenge on my phone’s language app. I succeeded, although the competition was very fierce. I was able to win this level because I was already mostly familiar with the material from previous studies and I could keep ahead of the competitors…barely. I wanted to win once because with more complicated lessons, I doubt I will make it into first place again.
Last Thursday evening I finally gave the chicks their freedom, letting them out of their cages to join the flock. I felt they were old enough to leave, they were getting too big for the cages, and in the cages they can’t seek cooler places on hot days. EJ and I moved the topmost cage with the younger four onto the strawbales on the floor so the chicks could easily leave it. The next morning, I took that cage out of the coop because it was taking up too much space. I left the other cage because it’s out of the way and the chicks can easily get in and out of it if they wanted. I put their chick feed in there for them to try to keep the older chickens from gobbling it down. The chicks are not too thrilled at joining the adults. Of course, they are now subjected to being taught their place in the pecking order. They stay in a bunch and often I find all eight of them in the one cage. I’m sure that in a few days, they will get bolder. They can’t stay safely caged forever and, besides, freedom is worth having.
Early this afternoon I went out to gather eggs. When I opened the gate separating the chicken pen from the garden, one of the hens escaped. I almost blocked her with my leg, but she squeezed past me. While I was trying to get her back in, our beta rooster escaped. I was able to get the hen back in her area without too much trouble–they like to be with the flock. But roosters are wily and this rooster kept getting past me. The problem is that I have to latch the gate so the other chickens can’t get out, but when I get the rooster near and try to unlatch the gate, he gets past me. I finally knocked on our bedroom window, knowing that Hannah Joy would hear it and start barking, and EJ would hear her and come to see what she was barking at–which is exactly what happened. When EJ came to the window, I told him I needed help. When he joined me, he steered the rooster toward the gate and I opened it to let him in. Unfortunately, the Alpha rooster was nearby and he chased the rooster back out, but I got him away from the gate and we had success the second time. I think that if EJ was gone, I’d never have been able to get the rooster back in the pen, leaving him free to eat our garden plants.
One evening last week when I was walking around the house after shutting the chickens in their coop for the night, my attention was drawn to strange activity on the ground. I went closer and saw that beetles were swarming the carcass of a chipmunk that the cats had killed. They were unfamiliar insects so I took a video of them with my phone. Then I went inside and found an insect identification website. I learned that the beetles were American Carrion Beetles, which eat dead things. As I viewed my video, I noticed that my camera had caught just a brief glimpse of a portion of another sort of beetle. I think that was some sort of burying beetle–probably the Tormentose Burying Beetle? The information said that those beetles bury the carcass of birds and small critters. They lay their eggs on them and when the eggs hatch, the young have a food source. The next day I took EJ to the place where the carcass was to see if the beetles were still there. There wasn’t a sign of the dead chipmunk! Either some animal had taken it away or the beetles had buried it. Amazing! I would share my video with you, but I don’t know if anyone wants to see insects eating a dead chipmunk. I don’t normally like looking at dead things either, but this was actually very interesting. All I could think was that God created excellent clean-up crews to take care of dead things. They are probably why we don’t often see dead critters on the ground.
I wasn’t sure that my herb garden was going to be very successful this year because many of the seeds didn’t seem to be taking off. However, they are FINALLY growing well. In fact, yesterday I began drying the mint in my dehydrator. I have three different kinds of mint: peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint, which really does have a chocolatey taste. I’ve been enjoying making tea with the mint, letting it cool down, and drinking it as a cool summer drink. It’s yummy. Sometimes I put in a bag of Lipton Cold Brew Tea. I also make teas with Lavender, Chamomile, Basil, and other herbs. Herbs have a lot of medicinal uses, including for respiratory illnesses, detoxing, anxiety, insomnia, stomach problems, and many others.
This morning EJ finished making homemade cat food for Theo and Millie, our outside cats. They love his food. I would let them stay out later, but around 7 pm they stand at the front door waiting for their special treat. I open the front door and they come in and I open the garage door and they go through it into the garage. I shut them in for the night to keep them safe from predators, and then I bring them their special food. They chitter with excitement when they see it.
It looks as if we might be getting another cat to join Little Bear and Timmy in the house. EJ’s co-worker is moving and needs a home for his cat, who is 12-13 years old. We are suckers…but we don’t think the cat should have to spend her final years in a shelter–or be euthanized. Hannah Joy has no great fondness for cats, but we will introduce them slowly and hope for the best.
It rained a bit this morning and we are expecting more rain later, which we really need. This afternoon has been mostly cloudy and humid. It’s not terribly hot, and there’s is a nice breeze, but the humidity makes it feel hot. Except for the dryness, the weather this summer has been very pleasant–most of the time neither too hot nor too cold.